In recent years, vans have been moving increasingly upmarket. The often crude slab-like styling of yesteryear has gradually been replaced and seen van bodies evolve in to a more sophisticated car-like design, incorporating familiar shapes or grilles in to their new look.
Chrome, once the preserve of fancy high-end cars, is now prevalent on vans – or at least chrome-look plastics are – and leather can often be found on steering wheels and gear knobs. Vans are certainly moving up in specification, and that can largely be attributed to their desirability as people movers. As the demand for 4x4s blossomed in passenger cars, larger family-focused vehicles got neglected, leaving a gap large enough for a van to sneak through. Volkswagen’s Transporter has always been successful as a people mover, but Mercedes-Benz has also tried to muscle in on the action with a slicker, more appealing version of the Vito. When the Transit Custom was launched in 2012, it was clear that as much emphasis was placed on the importance of the Tourneo Custom passenger version as it was on the panel van. Vans or van chassis, particularly mid-sized ones, had suddenly become viable family runabouts and manufacturers needed to cater for their new customers’ more car-like expectations.
Enter the super-specced van. A commercial vehicle rammed full of all the gadgets your average car buyer would expect, from parking sensors to cruise control, dual-zone climate control and heated seats; top of the range models suddenly filled the higher reaches of a van price list. While your average fleet driver is unlikely to ever find themselves in one of our assembled Volkswagen Transporter Highline, Mercedes-Benz Vito Sport or Ford Transit Custom Sportvan models, the more discerning owner-driver may well do. They may also see the benefit in choosing a combi version, allowing up to six seats as well as a loadspace – useful for both the day job and the family.
Gathered are the highest specification models currently available in Transporter, Vito and Transit Custom vans. Volkswagen will add a Transporter Sportline model to its range, and Mercedes are likely to produce a Vito Sport X, but for now these are the top of the range vans, and the ones that are most likely to lure in buyers wanting a more luxurious LCV.